Malcolm Dawson writes…….the games are coming thick and fast and thanks to the TV we have three home floodlit games in eight days. This is keeping Pete Sixsmith busy as he trawls his memory banks recalling his first ever sighting of the next visitors to the Stadium of Light. Friday will be the third time I have seen The Stanley, having watched then at Tamworth some years ago and I was there in the downpour at the back end of last year. Peter wasn’t at either of those games but he has of course seen them more than once and in the North East at that.
TFTEISYT ACCRINGTON STANLEY
I missed Accrington’s first visit to the Newcastle Road ground in October 1890 due to a busy day oakum picking at the workhouse so I never saw Jimmy Millar’s two first half goals. By the time I had graduated to Beadle’s Assistant, Accrington had resigned from the Football League and had disappeared back to the Lancashire Combination.
They came back in The Great Expansion of 1921 as Accrington Stanley and spent the next 40 years in either the Third Division (North) or the newly formed Division Four. They resigned from the Football League again in 1961 due to owing money all over the town and the board decided that it was time to throw in the towel.
I never saw them at Darlington so my first view of them must have been towards the end of the 1988-89 season at Kingsway, Bishop Auckland in a Northern Premier League Division One game.
Bishop were in their first season at this level after 99 years in the Northern League. Bishop had been serial FA Amateur Cup Winners with 10 successes in that competition and they had won the league 19 times before forsaking Willington, Crook Town and Durham City for glamorous visits to Colne Dynamoes, Irlam Town and Droylsden. They also got a trip to Mid Wales thrown in when they played Newtown. They came second that season behind Colne and I am pretty sure that I saw them beat Accrington Stanley 2-1 on their two and a bit sided ground in the centre of Bishop Auckland.
This was about the same time as the (in)famous Milk Marketing Board advert so no doubt the Accrington players got some stick from the resident wags in the Kingsway crowd.
The last time I saw Stanley play was at Hartlepool in November 2016. I was with my good friend Willie Fyfvie in the main stand thanks to complementary tickets from his son Graham, who was one of the Assistant Referees that night. Pools won it 2-0 although only the good lord and referee Richard Evans, knows how.
Stanley were by far the better side with Billy Kee missing three glorious chances in the first half. This game turned on the hour when the hapless Mr Evans mysteriously gave Pools a penalty and sent off Accrington full back Mark Hughes.
Cue an eruption of volcanic proportions from manager John Coleman and his long time assistant, Jimmy Bell. Both vented their spleen on Mr Evans and the various water buckets and bottles around their dug out, kicking them with the expertise of men who are well practiced in this art. Words that one would not usually associate with a one-time schoolteacher as Coleman was, were aimed at the Assistant Referee (fortunately Graham was on the other side of the ground) and there was an extended kerfuffle as Padraig Amond waited to take the kick against one of his former clubs.
It was saved by Elliott Parrish much to the delight of the Accrington dugout but Pools had three more attempts to put it in the net in the father and mother of goalmouth scrambles before Nicky Deverdics finally did so with a spectacular overhead kick. A last-minute goal from Lewis Alessandra added insult to injury and did nothing to spare Evans from The Wrath of Coleman.
Coleman is in his second spell with Stanley, having first slid into the hot seat in 1999. He left in 2012 for an ill-fated spell at Rochdale and then on to Southport and Sligo Rovers, before he returned to The Crown Ground in 2014, where he consolidated their position in Division Two before building a team good enough to take them into the same level as ourselves. At 56, he is probably wise enough to realise that the grass is rarely greener over the hill and he may well stay at Stanley until he can claim his teachers pension at the ripe old age of 60.
Things have not gone well for them in 2019, losing three and drawing two of their five league games. They have not scored since Boxing Day and are in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap. So, there is every opportunity for us to maintain our charge towards the sunlit uplands of the Championship by seeing them off as comprehensively as we did in 1892 when we walloped them 4-1 on our way to our first ever League Championship. We can but hope!